iOS does this but OS X does that: Tracking the inconsistencies between Apple’s two OSes

Inconsistent OSes

With each new release of iOS and OS X, there are always feature inconsistencies between the two platforms that leave you wondering why. Some of the differences may not appear to be major features, but when used could become a real time saver when using both systems.  The following is a rundown of some feature inconsistencies that will hopefully be resolved in the upcoming release:

Siri, Airplay and Control Center

Siri, Airplay and Control Center

Step back for Siri – Before Siri ever existed on iOS (even before iOS or OS X existed for that matter), the Accessibility options within OS X will allow your Mac to read back selected text using one of the many different voices included with OS X.  More recently Macs have been able to listen to your spoken commands. You can calibrate to your voice and create your own spoken commands.  If Siri was to replace this OS X feature, Apple will likely take its usual one step backward approach as they reintroduce it as a “redesigned” feature of OS X.
Airplay both ways – The funny thing about AirPlay is that it is basically a one-way street. Devices like iPhones and Macs can stream music and videos to other devices like the Apple TV and the Airport Express. It would be nice if they could receive streams from other devices as well. Apps like Rogue Amoeba’s Airfoil Speakers Touch (Free, Universal) and AirServer ($14.99, Mac) have attempted to bring this capability to iOS and OS X devices, but on iOS in particular were limited to do so in a proprietary fashion.

Controlling Control Center – OS X already has a control center of sorts; it is located on the menu bar and is referred to as “status menus”. While some menu items will actually perform a function, most will just launch the system preferences. The date and time as an example will not launch the calendar app, it will only take you to the date and time settings. On the flip side, iOS’s Control Center can learn from the menu bar by allowing third-party developers to at least add launch icons that are assigned to their app’s URL scheme.

iTunes’ identity crisis

iTunes’ identity crisis

Radio as a separate App – On both iOS and OS X, iTunes is a real mess. With the exception of iBooks on OS X, iTunes is the one app that tries to do it all. Videos, Music, Podcasts, iTunesU and even the iTunes Store itself are all separate apps on iOS. The one app on iOS that was kept as part of the Music app, iTunes Radio, is one that even before the Beats announcement many thought would become its own app. Accessing content gets even more confusing when you turn on iTunes Match and Home Sharing. This whole space needs to be re-imagined.

Which App Store – The confusion between the app stores becomes evident when using Apple’s own link-to system on iOS. Opening an iTunes link to an app will yield different results based on where the app was meant to be installed. On the iPad you can view, add to a wish list, purchase as a gift and even buy apps for both the iPhone and the iPad. The iPhone can only do this for apps specifically designed for the iPhone and OS X can manage apps for all three devices. It would be nice if one could browse and shop for apps on any device.

Missing Newsstand on Mac – Feelings are certainly mixed when it comes to Apple’s Newsstand. Some say it is still a necessary part of modern day publishing while others just want it to go away. While Newsstand for iOS is a touch-based app that some may feel has no place on a Mac, the same was also said for iBooks. Accessing bookmarked items of articles I have read on iOS and being able review selected articles on my Mac would be just as valuable to me as it is when it is excerpts from a book. Even Zinio has a desktop version of their popular magazine reader.

iOS mail needs an OS X touch

iOS mail needs an OS X touch

Group Messages – A feature that has been missing from both mail and messages on iOS for far too long is the ability to send to groups. On OS X you can create groups in the Contacts app and use them as distribution lists when sending mail messages. When viewing contacts on iOS, these same groups only affect the visibility of Contacts within a list and cannot be used in the To: field of an email or message.

Smart Groups – Taking things even further, you can create smart groups for your contacts on OS X. This makes managing certain groups like everyone that works for a particular company, lives in the same neighborhood, or has either an anniversary or birthday in the next thirty days real easy to maintain. Not only are these smart groups not present on iOS, they also do not sync across OS X devices via iCloud.

Mailbox Searches – Searching within your mail is something iOS needs help with as well. On OS X you can craft more exact searches by specifying which field you want to search on. On iOS you can switch between all mailboxes and the current mailbox, but that is about it. Searching for a message from a particular someone within a particular date range would be more valuable.

Smart Mailboxes – When you get right down to it, a Smart Mailbox is really just a search that you can save and access at any time. After you create a more intelligent search, being able to save it as a sort of folder or group on iOS would be useful. It sure beats tagging and sorting mail into static mailboxes by hand.

Accessing screens and sharing files

Accessing screens and sharing files

Screen Sharing for iOS – Back to My Mac is a feature of OS X first introduced with Leopard. Its core feature allows one to remotely log on to a Mac from across the internet. This iCloud feature is limited to Macs only.  While there are several really good screen sharing solutions for iOS available today, being able to use the built-in Back to My Mac feature from your iPad would bring this capability to a much wider audience.

Remote File Access for iOS – Macs already have access to a Personal Cloud solution through Back to My Mac. Another feature of the Back to My Mac is the ability to access files remotely. This includes being able to access files shared from a Airport Time Capsule. Having access to a more affordable cloud storage solution would benefit to iOS devices as it already does for Macs.

AirDrop for iOS and OS X– This has the potential of being one of the most useful features on both iOS and OS X. The ability to transfer files to and from iPhone’s, iPad’s and Macs. Currently only Macs can share files with Macs, and only iOS devices can share files with iOS devices. I seldom need to transfer a file from iPhone to iPad, but I always seem to need to transfer a file from my Mac to my iPad.

Attention Notification Center

Attention Notification Center

Today View – The Calendar information on display in OS X Notifications is much more complete and useful than that presented in iOS notifications. What is odd is that there I a lot more wasted space in the “Today” view on iOS, where space is already limited in the first place. Having access to a quick view a full days events and to-do items is all that is needed. Knowing that I have ten events scheduled tomorrow and the first one is at eight is partly useless information.

Safari Notifications – One new feature of Safari on OS X is the ability for web sites to register push notifications. I have come to rely on this new feature of Safari as more and more web sites have adopted it. The problem is that I am not notified at all on my iOS devices.

One Tap Clears – iOS at times is too apologetic for the simplification in design. An example of this is with the double tap to clear messages from your notifications view. On OS X there is an “X” in the top right corner of a notification and when you click it, the notifications are removed. The same “X” is on iOS but you get a follow-up “Clear” button that you need to click to remove the notifications.

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